City orders three dispensaries to close

The city of Tacoma began cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries last week, sending letters to three of them that have had their business licenses revoked.

Emerald Pharms, T-Town Alternative Medicine and The Vape Bar, all located in South Tacoma, received cease and desist orders. They have until Sept. 17 to halt sales.

The city considers these three businesses to be in sensitive areas, meaning they are too close to schools, churches or parks. One is across the street from a community center.

Danielle Larson, manager of the city’s Tax and License Division, said T-Town Alternative Medicine and Emerald Pharms have exhausted their appeal rights. Both applied for licenses in 2011. They were denied and appealed. Larson said their appeals processes ended in January, when the city’s hearings examiner ruled in favor of the city.

Larson said The Vape Bar could utilize the appeals process if the owner chooses. When that establishment applied for a license, the paperwork indicated the business activity would be “electronic cigarettes and accessories; tobacco,” according to the letter the city sent out. However, code enforcement officers for the city have viewed marijuana plants inside and on the roof of the building and smelled a strong marijuana odor. According to the letter, an Internet advertisement for The Vape Room offers “medical patients a free joint” and states that “vaping is permitted.”

Larson said what was stated on the application is a legal business but “they were denied because they were not truthful in the activity they were conducting.”

Larson said the city is aware of 25 other establishments that could receive such letters.

Tacoma City Council recently took action that would allow for collective gardens of marijuana intended for medical use, under certain conditions. Retail outlets selling the substance would not be allowed. Larson noted that the new city policy classifies the dispensaries as a nuisance, and they are not allowed inside the city limits. Collective gardens would be allowed if they are not in a sensitive area and do not generate complaints from nearby residents or business owners.

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